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The undercurrents of the future. A publication from Medium about technology and people.

Our one-sided connections with celebrities and social media influencers can have surprising benefits

Image: visuals/Unsplash

I forget the year, but Facebook was only starting to catch up to Myspace, YouTube was shiny new, and I had just started blogging. Sometime around here, my friends and I watched one of Ryan Leslie’s videos — probably this one, with him playing all the instruments he needed to make a song. He had produced the classic, and incredibly catchy, “Me & You” single with Cassie. He had a presence in the mainstream and social media. …


One stunning drone air show made me believe in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics again

Drones fly to form an image of the Earth over the top of the stadium during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Photo: Wei Zheng/CHINASPORTS/VCG via Getty Images

I wasn’t feeling it. Normally, I’m an Olympics junkie. I consume the opening ceremonies, major competitions — and a lot of minor ones — and the Closing Ceremonies as if I was competing in some kind of Olympics Watching sport.

I try to medal in both Summer and Winter Olympics.

These vexed games were different. Delayed, damaged by COVID outbreaks, Tokyo’s mishandling of the epidemic and vaccinations, and sapped of the energy crowds bring to the ceremonies and competitions, they barely felt like The Games.

Still, when I woke up Friday morning (the Tokyo 2020 Olympics run from July 23…


When people lose faith in institutions, they gravitate to misinformation. It’s time to address the trust vacuum.

The following is a selection from Big Technology, a newsletter by Alex Kantrowitz. To get it in your inbox each week, you can sign up here.

This week, I tried to hold two stories in my head at once. The first was President Biden’s remark that Facebook was “killing people” by allowing vaccine misinformation to spread. The second was the newly revealed detail that Curtis Wright, the FDA director who oversaw the agency’s approval of OxyContin, went on to work for the opioid’s manufacturer, Purdue Pharma, for an annual salary of approximately $400,000.

The two stories together remind that misinformation…


Today’s outage was resolved quickly. A future cyberattack may not be.

Courtesy Gado Images.

If you tried to access any of several thousand large websites this morning, you likely noticed strange issues. Pages wouldn’t load, normally snappy screens took forever to access, and 404 errors abounded.

The issue may have thrown a wrench into your morning plans if you sought to book a flight, check your bank balance, track a package, or trounce an opponent in any of several popular videogames. …


It could provide a model for reigning in dangerous online speech, but challenges remain

Photo by Maria Oswalt on Unsplash

A prospective new law working its way through California’s legislature would make doxing reproductive health doctors and patients (including those who perform or seek abortions at health centers including Planned Parenthood) into a crime. The prospective law, which is part of AB1356, was recently passed in the California Senate Judiciary Committee on the evening of July 13, 2021.

Doxing refers to harassment of a person through the public sharing of their personal information, often online. It is a tactic sometimes used to intimidate providers who offer abortions in California, according to lawmakers and advocates. The National Abortion Federation, an advocacy…


As former Amazon CEO and current daring billionaire Jeff Bezos blasted off into space, people had questions.

Blue Origin New Shepard lifts off on its 12th mission on December 11, 2019. (Credit: Blue Origin)

We’re all talking about space again thanks to back-to-back, crewed, edge-of-space flights by two disparate space crafts.

Standing amid of group of people glued to a TV screen, I listened as they all commented on Blue Origin’s impending New Shepard launch on Tuesday.

“Why can’t we see inside?”

“Who’s flying?”

“Does the rocket take it to space and steer it back?”

“Would you go to space?”

Then silence as Bezos’ Liquid Hydrogen/Liquid Oxygen-powered, unfortunately shaped spaceship ignited and then smoothly lifted off the launch pad. The hush continued as the rocket with a capsule carrying Bezos, his brother Mark, Wally…


The company’s decision to end Fleets proves you can’t always join them

Base Image: Twitter

Twitter was the one safe place left in the social media landscape where users could hide from the influx of stories/reels/other copycats— until it wasn’t. When the company announced Fleets on November 17, 2020, it was met with a collective sigh. The wider audience was more concerned with other issues — improving its moderation practices and adding that elusive edit button — than using a feature already available on other social media apps. Still, the company pressed on, and the feature began its global rollout.

Now, only 8 months later, the company is announcing that it’s killing off Fleets. The…


If you make stuff for the internet, and are good at it, you are very happy right now.

Unsplash

It’s an absolutely incredible moment to be creating stuff online.

After long neglecting people who create content for their products, the tech platforms are showering them with money, support, and opportunity. Facebook just pledged $1 billion to creators by 2022. TikTok is on its way there. YouTube, Pinterest, and others are promising millions of their own. Snapchat wouldn’t return creators’ calls a few years ago; now, it’s paying them millions per month.

We’re seeing a stark — but inevitable — shift in the conventional belief that user-generated content was enough to fill social platforms’ feeds, and keep them vibrant. It…


Facebook’s brain gear is dead, but the research and possibilities continue

Photo by Josh Riemer on Unsplash

I do not need to post to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or, really, any platform any more quickly than I already do. I don’t want or need a device that can read my thoughts because I’m not frustrated that sometimes I can think faster than I type or speak. Maybe I should just slow down.

So, no, I’m not sad that Facebook, more specifically its research-based Reality Labs, has decided to shift its focus from an optical-based, head-mounted thought-reading system to wrist-based neural interface devices and more intuitive AR/VR input.

When Facebook announced four years ago that it was working on…


Space billionaires are experiencing the profound oneness of the planet burning beneath them. For the right price, you can too.

Virgin Galactic

The space tourism industry blasted off this week, with Virgin Galactic sending the first billionaire ego into orbit, before Jeff Bezos’ ego joins Richard Branson’s in the stratosphere on July 20.

A giant leap for homo sapiens, or pigs in space? You decide.

What caught my eye was how the trips were being marketed as a spiritual experience.

Virgin Galactic described its product as ‘humbling…spiritual’.

Matthew Upchurch, CEO of Virtuoso, one of Virgin’s space tourism vendors, said his customers are spiritual seekers:

[Space tourism] takes you out of your comfort zone, opens your mind and helps you grow as a…

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